Secret of the Sphinx (1964)

Secret of the Sphinx PosterThousands of years after Man solved the riddle of the Sphinx, one Sphinxy question still remained: what is the secret of the Sphinx? While the riddle turned out to be a rather gimmicky joke about a man aging throughout his life, it should be noted that that particular sphinx was one who lived in ancient Greece, so who really cares, right?

The secret we’re concerned with is the one held by the most famous of all the Sphinxes, the one who lives in Egypt with all those pyramids. Surely, a strange and wondrous creature like the Sphinx who stands guard over the ancient kings of Egypt would have the most awesomest secret ever hidden inside its sandy blowhole!

I was suitably awed then to find out that the only secret revealed in this movie from Duccio Tessari (Puzzle, Tex and the Lord of the Deep) was that old Lion Butt was a really good listener! He’d have to be in order not to doze off during all the talking and explaining that takes place among an insurance investigator, an erstwhile wife of a thief, and the gang of hangers-on that populate the desert expedition they’re all going on.

There was so much double crossing and wrapping up of loose ends that needed to be done, that it was necessary not only to have the villain and the good guy explain to each other what they knew, but then to later have the good guy and his two allies explain it even more at the end of the movie with distracting close ups of their faces.

It was as if they knew I was still trying to figure out why the river suddenly caught on fire, why a guy who was supposed to be dead turned out to be impersonating another guy, and whether the good guy was working with the police all along and if so, why did he even need to go deep undercover on the expedition in the first place.

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Of course, they could have tried to explain everything to me until the ravages of time reduced the Great Sphinx himself into nothing more than so much kitty litter and I still wouldn’t have known anything more than I knew at the beginning – namely that Thomas is an insurance investigator on the hunt for some stolen gold!

Stolen gold? So it probably wasn’t even the script that made no sense (one minute our hero is all over this girl, then she apparently dies and he sort of shrugs his shoulders and just goes on to the next scene and back to being all over another girl!), but that I was surely suffering from a dose of Gold Fever!

You know how Gold Fever can be – you lay your eyes on some gold and the next thing you know you’re killing people in the desert, trying to burn people alive in an oil-soaked river, and smacking them over the head with a vase on a boat even as the cops are closing in! And how else to explain that Thomas spends most of the time on the expedition faking sunstroke so that he doesn’t have to try to operate the fancy electrical gizmo that’s being used to locate the underground cache of goodies?

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Considering what an awful job Thomas does of being undercover, you’ve got to hope it’s a result of Gold Fever. From the way he lamely inserts himself into things by hiring a group of thugs to terrorize the wife of the gold thief and then coming to her rescue under the pretense of wanting to meet her, to his just laying around in his tent all the time pretending to be sick, but then running out when no one is looking to make out with another chick or to stalk his pretend wife who is cuddling up to someone else and beating that guy up, Thomas does everything but strut around in his “Insurance Investigator Conference – Cairo 1964” T-shirt.

But what would a convoluted story that makes little sense be without the really great scenes you’ve come to expect from Italian adventure flicks? Where else would you not be surprised by the sequence where Thomas dumps a body overboard while taking a break from dining with the rest of the expedition only to return to eat fish that the natives advise feed solely on corpses dumped in the river!

And remember how the Sphinx is in the title of the movie? We all know what that means – location shooting for a scene where Thomas and his pretend wife have a secret meeting at the Sphinx! (As Thomas explains, they’ll meet there early before all the tourists arrive.)

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The movie does generate some nice tension when divers recover some of the crates that Thomas dumped overboard as we wait to see whether the dead body will be in one of them. But then the tension is broken once it turns out that Thomas has inexplicably also dumped overboard the gadget the expedition was going to use to probe underground for buried loot. I wasn’t entirely sure if Thomas himself knew what he was doing half the time.

The scene where the river is ablaze and dirty clouds obscure everything is effective as well, but after he accuses a fellow member of the expedition of starting it nothing much comes of it until it is all casually explained away in the closing moments of the film.

And no, you’re not suffering from Gold Fever when you notice that Secret of the Sphinx also delivers the standard airport shots and nightclub scene with bad dancing so many Italian spy movies of the period favored. The Eurospy veteran will undoubtedly experience it all with a Sphinxian impassiveness while the Sphinx’s talky and obtuse secret will utterly destroy everyone else!

© 2016 MonsterHunter

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